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Kentucky beats Vanderbilt: 6 things to know and postgame banter

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The Cats avoid catastrophe.

Nick Richards Jeremy Chisenhall - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Vanderbilt Commodores Wednesday night by a score of 71-62.

Slow start is an understatement as to how UK started this one. I go into more depth below, but Kentucky went into the half down 35-28 against a team that’s lost 24 straight regular season SEC games.

They woke up in the second half, however, as they were able to pull away and come out victorious.

Next up, the Cats will travel to Auburn Arena to take on the Auburn Tigers for College GameDay on Saturday night.

Playing to competition

This team has a knack for playing to competition and, man, did they live up to that reputation today.

The Cats came out sluggish and got down by as much as 10 points before coming back.

It’s hard to get up for games like this, but it’s been a theme all year. Kentucky either can’t finish an opponent when they’re up or they can’t blow out an inferior opponent.

It’s frustrating, but while all that matters is they win, it could come back to bite you in March.

Sestina still can’t guard...anyone

I’m sorry. I know people aren’t going to like this, but it’s just the truth. Nate Sestina probably couldn’t guard anyone reading this post.

He does positive things. He hustles. He rebounds. He stretches the floor with his ability to inconsistently hit threes. But whatever he provides in that regard is completely erased by his inability to guard anyone on the court.

Even the simplest minds in basketball can figure out that all it takes is to set a screen and get Sestina switched on a guard/wing to score every time. Rivals’ Travis Graf summed it up perfectly.

I like Sestina because of his heart and love for simply having the opportunity to play basketball at Kentucky. But at this point, something has got to change.

Nick Richards continues to be Kentucky’s MVP

This might sound weird considering Richards’ poor play in the first half, but it’s true. Kentucky cannot function without either Richards or Ashton Hagans.

Those two make this team go. So, when Richards picked up his second foul less than five minutes into the game, that’s never a good sign for things going forward.

Hagans runs the offense and does everything, but Richards is the only semblance of a post presence on this team. Without him, the trains stops.

He’s been amazing this season, but he has to be on his game and careful not to foul or else the Cats are in trouble.

He turned it on in the second half tonight, though.

Balanced effort

Nobody did anything extraordinary tonight, but rather it was a balanced effort from the team.

After seeing Richards and Immanuel Quickley dominate Saturday, tonight they shared the ball and won in a team-oriented fashion.

The good news is Kentucky has enough guys to win even when one or two have an off game. Tonight, no one played amazingly well, but they all played good enough to get it done.

EJ put together another solid effort

EJ Montgomery has been on and off this year, but he played well tonight. He always does well defensively, but it was more than that tonight.

He scored and defended and a good game from him and Sestina/Brooks is what this team needs to be great.

Another year would work wonders for EJ. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return next year, but as of right now, he’s got the potential to be a special player.

Tyrese Maxey came to play

After a more than lackluster performance on Saturday, Maxey came back with a vengeance tonight.

He started out somewhat slow, but he turned it on in the second half when Kentucky really needed it.

Maxey is a special player. And he might be a microwave and inconsistent scorer, he can win or lose game for the Cats.

Tonight, he helped them get the W.

All in all, Kentucky got the job done tonight. It wasn’t pretty, but they got the win and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Once March comes around, these close, hard-fought games will come in handy.

Forget that second half against the South Carolina Gamecocks and this team has been one of the five best in the country since the new year.

Let’s keep it going with a big road win Saturday.

Go Cats!